This is the time of year when I would normally throw away all clothing items except sarongs and bikinis, and head off to the tropics. But this year I had to go and open a bar. Instead of packing my dive gear, I’m spending my days tasting through wines and beers, and looking at quesadilla analytics in my till system. Tough life, I know, but still I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for my dive life in Mexico! So here’s a piece I wrote about lionfish safaris, spear-fishing with my huntress friends to rid the reefs of this invasive species.
Restaurare (Tulum’s vegan restaurant serving traditional Mexican dishes) was a food highlight for me during my time in Mexico, but owner Robbie Terrazas stopped me as I talked about the local restaurant scene. ‘You know, maybe it’s just a language thing between Spanish and English, but here we always talk about the food, not the restaurants.” And that is one of the reasons that his restaurant is so great. Wooden tables are tucked away in a jungle of chit palms. Hanging lanterns provide the lighting and the air is filled with the smoke from copal, a tree resin long used by the Maya for its cleansing properties. Restaurare’s setting feels mysterious, other-worldy, but the food is entirely grounded in Tulum — plant-based, organic and local produce. In this interview I talk to Robbie about creating a traditional Mexican menu without meat, and Tulum, the town where people live from love.
Milk Fight was Gaby Montejo’s artistic expression of a political debate. Apart from being the most fun that I’d had in a long time, the event brought attention to the dairy industry’s role in New Zealand. It took place on 25th October 2014 as part of FESTA, and went on to be nominated for a national art award. In this (part two) of the interview I talk to Gaby about the dairy industry, the experience on the day, the critical response, and the sublime.
Gaby Montejo’s ‘Milk Fight’ was part performance art, part Fonterra protest, and part simulated war. It was also one of the best experiences of my life. Armed with a bucket as a weapon and ski goggles as protection I spent an afternoon hurling hundreds of litres of milk at my opponents and getting drenched by them in retaliation. The event took place on 25th October 2014 as part of FESTA, and went on to be nominated for a national art award. In the approach to this year’s FESTA and my upcoming return to New Zealand, it seems like a good time to revisit it. In part one of this two part interview I talk to Gaby about the dairy industry, the set-up – conversations with farmers, Ngai Tahu, and FESTA organisers, and the significance of the event.
Jade Temepara’s Kakanō Cafe is a modern initiative that is novel because it celebrates a return to the methods of the past. She is teaching skills that have been forgotten and re-planting seeds that have been lost. The cafe includes a seed to plate garden with heritage produce and an on site cookery school with workshops, classes, and speaker events. In my former job with Life in Vacant Spaces I was involved during the cafe’s set-up and I saw the excitement build around the space. The homeless men that hung out at Pete’s Landing across the street helped her build the garden beds. “They think it’s their pad,” she says. The librarians at the National Archive next door gave her their files and research of heritage produce and Maori food preparation. Everyone got involved – backpackers, neighbourhood residents, Jade’s family members. Here she tells me about her family, her ideas about New Zealand cuisine, and the future of Kakanō.
Jade Temepara is no stranger to getting things done. Her initiative Hand Over A Hundy gave families resources and mentoring to start home gardens. She told me about a corporate office that approached her and wanted to create a garden of their own. They had set up a committee and began scheduling a series of meetings to discuss their plans. When they told Jade that they might be able to start on the ground in a year, she excused herself and left. “I need to go start a garden right now, on my way home.” Her current space on Peterborough Street took more than an afternoon to set up, but I watched her team transform a vacant rubble lot into Kakanō Cafe and Cookery School within mere months. Here she talks about indigenous cuisine, the importance of food in community, and Kakanõ Cafe and Cookery School.
Hospo family dinner is a beloved tradition in restaurants that actually care about their staff. It’s an opportunity for the chef to trial new dishes that might be too experimental for the restaurant menu, and a chance for the staff to sit down and enjoy each others company with some good food and drinks. Every Thursday, Chef Aliesha McGilligan puts on a Chef’s Table lunch where she opens that treasured experience to the public – anyone can come. Each week she puts together meals above and beyond the cafe cabinet and creates an atmosphere where neighbourhood tradies sit next to artists working at the XCHC, backpackers and foodies and CBD office workers all share a table and pass the plates around. Here, she tells me about Chef’s Table, her food philosophy, and what it’s like to be a chef in the middle of an arts space.